Around 8 weeks into the Coronavirus entering the UK and over 2 weeks since the total lockdown was announced by the Government, the shock, grief and anger phases have now started to wear off for most business owners who have been negatively impacted by this crisis.
Businesses are now turning to the fightback, their business’ plan for the recovery, for when the lockdown ends, and we can slowly return to work, although many predict, not in the way it always was. As Winston Churchill famously said: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.
What can you do as a business owner, to use this downtime productively, and to emerge a stronger, more efficient and profitable business?
1. YOUR NUMBERS
Assuming you have already prepared your cashflows, keep those up to date as more information becomes known. Now is the time to begin to drill down, line by line into your business’ costs and consider if you should be downsizing or just changing your working practices. These cashflows need to be able to show profitability, cashflow and your balance sheet, so get in touch if you require any support with this. Think about every single line of cost. Are there savings to be made on fixed costs, or procurement exercises which you can undertake now to find alternative supplier relationships? Bear in mind that supply chains may become disjointed once the lockdown is lifted, and it would be sensible not to rely on a single supplier for a scarce product. Check contracts for usage terms and any minimum charges for utilities, office equipment etc. Use this time to open up conversations with every supplier and consider how you manage your stock and other supplies.
2.YOUR PRODUCTS, SERVICES, WORKING PRACTICES
Now is the time to consider how working from home (if you are), or other measures you’ve been forced to take, could actually make sense in the longer term, to bring a more dynamic and supple business, with more flexible working patterns for your team. For example: Have you introduced new product ranges or services? Have you focused on your marketing and communications in a new way? Have you allowed your team to work flexibly, around childcare and other responsibilities? Has working from home been okay, manageable, still as productive, and could it be adapted to be part of your offering to your workforce as a permanent feature? What impact has all the above had on your need for office space, for the way you manage your resources, for the jobs and roles your staff carry out?
3. YOUR PEOPLE
In a crisis situation, some step up and some step away. Who has impressed you during this time? Who would you want to be alongside you, if your business entered another critical time? Have members of your workforce taken on a different role which actually really suits them? Or have you found that you can manage without certain roles, was there unnecessary duplication in your systems or delivery? Many staffing structures in businesses evolve over time, but not necessarily in the most effective way. Now could be the time to take a look at your organisation chart, the roles and responsibilities each person has, and take the opportunity to restructure your organisation, so that you emerge from this period better able to deliver great service, profitability and to be as cash efficient as you can be.
4. YOUR PROFILE
How has the lockdown or change in business practices affected your customers? Have they been in touch with you? How have you communicated with them? Have they said that they missed the way things were? What about your profile in your trade or local press? Or on social media? Have you managed to use this time to raise your profile, or have you just hidden away waiting for it all to be over? Can you use this time to rethink your marketing, your media relations, your website and social media, engagement with your customers and potential customers? Emerge from this stronger and having a greater understanding of what your customers value.
We’re going to finish by reminding you that whilst you are considering how your business may be affected by the lockdown, those changes which have been imposed on you, but also those changes you are now going to make voluntarily and strategically, keep returning to your cashflows and amend your forecasts to show the potential impact of each of your decisions. Having a written plan will greatly reduce any anxiety you feel and restore your entrepreneurial drive and confidence, so that you will be ready to take on this new world and start to build again.
If you have any questions and/or require support, please get in touch with our team on 01904 655202 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Credit: Kirsty McGregor – Corporate Finance Network